The Bears have displayed resiliency all season, overcoming adversity and rallying to erase deficits late in games. But they've also been plagued by costly mistakes, communication issues and inconsistent play—especially on offense.
The same scenario transpired again Sunday at Soldier Field in a 26-23 overtime loss to the Saints. In a game that featured wild swings of momentum, the Bears raced to a 13-3 lead, fell behind 23-13 and then rallied to tie it 23-23.
The box score will show that Wil Lutz's 35-yard field goal with 1:36 left in overtime gave New Orleans the win. But for the Bears, the loss could be blamed more on familiar culprits, such as costly penalties, dropped passes and miscommunication.
"There [are] issues there," said coach Matt Nagy. "That's what bothers me and that's what [ticks] me off, is that there is that issue still going on."
Nagy was especially perturbed with what occurred early in the second half. Leading 13-10, the Bears drew a delay-of-game on third-and-four, quarterback Nick Foles was sacked for a nine-yard loss on third-and-nine and Cordarrelle Patterson was flagged for a false start while lining up for Pat O'Donnell's punt.
Deonte Harris followed with a 42-yard punt return to the Bears' 16 that set up Lutz's 27-yard field goal, tying the game 13-13.
On the first play of the Bears' next drive, Foles completed a 5-yard pass to Allen Robinson II. But Javon Wims approached Saints cornerback C.J. Gardner-Johnson after the play and punched him twice in the facemask. Wims drew a 15-yard penalty and was ejected from the game.
"When you have somebody throwing punches," Nagy said, "when you have things that are going on right now with us and the offense and just trying to get things going, guys are fighting. They're sticking together. But then you have that happen. It takes away everything that you work hard to get to and fight for, and what bothers me is we've got a lot of good guys that are doing things the right way and then it just takes it away."
To make matters worse, Foles was intercepted by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore on the next play following Wims' ejection. New Orleans converted the takeaway into Lutz's 39-yard field, taking a 16-13 lead.
"It's brutal," Nagy said. "You go from second-and-5 to second-and-20. That's hard. What I don't like is you come out, it's a tie game and you have an opportunity to do some things and we go the other way. I felt like it took the sting out, the fire, for a little bit. We had to regroup. The defense, at least in that situation with the field position, was able to hold them and not let them score touchdowns. But we had to regroup offensively on the sideline and just let these guys know, 'Let's go. Get on track and get out of that.' That's kind of where we were with that."
The offense did rebound, eventually scoring 10 points in the final 3:32 of regulation to force overtime. Foles capped an impressive 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney and then set up Cairo Santos' game-tying 51-yard field goal with :13 remaining by completing a 15-yard pass to Anthony Miller to the Saints' 33.
More miscues came in overtime, however. After Robinson made a stellar 17-yard reception from Foles on third-and-15, Miller and Jimmy Graham dropped passes on back-to-back plays and Foles was sacked on third-and-10, forcing the Bears to punt.
Foles finished the game completing 28 of 41 passes for 272 yards with two TDs, one interception and a 92.7 passer rating while being sacked five times. David Montgomery rushed for a season-high 89 yards on 21 carries.
The Bears defense entered Week 8 ranked No. 1 in the NFL in the red zone and No. 2 on third downs and excelled in both areas Sunday. The unit allowed just one touchdown on four red-zone possessions and limited the Saints to a 15 percent conversion rate on third downs (2 of 13).
But the defense failed to generate a takeaway and struggled to contain New Orleans' two superstars. Quarterback Drew Brees completed 31 of 41 passes for 280 yards with two TDs and a 109.8 passer rating while being sacked only once. And running back Alvin Kamara generated 163 yards from scrimmage, catching nine passes for 96 yards and rushing for 67 yards on 12 carries, including a 20-yard run that set up Lutz's winning kick in overtime.
A turning point in the game occurred late in the second quarter. Leading 10-3, the Bears reached the Saints' 11. But instead of scoring a touchdown that would have widened the margin to 17-3, they settled for Santos' 29-yard field goal that made it 13-3.
The Saints followed by marching 68 yards on nine plays in just 1:36, closing the gap to 13-10 on Brees' 16-yard TD pass to a wide open tight end Jared Cook with just :03 remaining in the half.
"That's a tough feeling as a defense to be in a good position and give up a play like that," said defensive tackle Akiem Hicks. "I would imagine at most we would want to give up a field goal in that situation because they did drive down the field and you've got to respect that.
"But the one thing that I think our defense is built on is standing up. We'll hit some controversy. We'll have a bad play. We're human beings. But when it comes to crunch time, it's not OK to be human. You've got to be different, and we understand that."
See the game unfold through the lenses of our sideline photographers as the Bears face off against the Saints at home on a Sunday afternoon in Chicago.